Two decades of toil drew to a close for Philipp Kohlschreiber in Roehampton and while there was inevitable sadness at calling time on his career, that feeling came with an equal measure of relief, writes Paul Eddison at Wimbledon Qualifying.
The veteran German announced that this would be his final tournament after coming through the first round of Wimbledon qualifying on Monday, with the curtain coming down after a hard-fought three-set defeat to Mikhail Kukushkin, 7-6 (4) 3-6 4-6 in round two in Roehampton.
The dream was to bow out at the All England club up the road, for a player who was once ranked as high as 16 in the world and sits fifth on the all-time table for most Grand Slam appearances by a male tennis player.
In some ways though, the relative anonymity of the ending is fitting for the 38-year-old, who had not even planned to announce his retirement ahead of time.
It was simply a case of honesty from Kohlschreiber, who has known for some time that the end was coming.
He explained: “There are two sides of the feelings. One side is the sad side, on the other it’s also a relief. I had the decision already for a long time in my mind that it’s time to stop. I wasn’t feeling the right motivation anymore. But when it’s final, it’s more emotional, of course.
“When I won the first match, I didn’t plan it. I arrived on Sunday, I didn’t play any matches on grass, I practised on hard court. I hadn’t won my last matches so how should I? I was pretty relaxed coming into this tournament. I was surprised that there was an on-court interview. I think my mother raised me well and after the question about what is next? I said ‘Ok, there is no next’. I didn’t plan for it and it was also kind of a strange situation that many people came to me after they read it, saying congratulations. So maybe the emotional stuff built up today.”
Considering his age, retirement was always likely to be in Kohlschreiber’s immediate future. The Covid-19 pandemic might not have sped up the process, but it certainly clarified things for him.
He said: “What was tough was all the travel restrictions. If you had a positive test, you would be isolated and could not bring your whole team. It was really tough and I enjoyed the time at home, a lot.
“It was the first time in my career that I had spent such a long period at home in one go. I figured that it wasn’t bad, it’s very nice to have a regular life, getting up, making your breakfast and being at home.
“Everything else like that is always structured for tennis. I enjoyed it and maybe it was tough to return afterwards. But, on the other side, I never had the real hunger in the last two years. If you win and you don’t have the special feeling to enjoy the moment, I knew that something was missing.”
As for the future. Well, that normal life clearly appeals to Kohlschreiber. And while he has been aware of his impending retirement for some time, what follows is a little more uncertain.
He concluded: “At the moment, I don’t really have a strategy about what is next. It will take some time to finish everything. My wife supported me all my life, part of her life is gone too.
“I think I have a good knowledge in tennis, I can talk a lot, so maybe commentary. Let’s see what time brings up.”